Not to be sappy, but I’m pert near bursting with pride and feel rather lucky to be an American. Hope you saddlepals will have just a glorious 4th of July Saturday.

But to business at hand.

We’ve some highly entertaining trail riding ahead through the back trails of SCV history.

Why, there’s... heck.

Stop me from jawing. Hop in the saddle and let’s just gallop at break neck speed into the time warp continuum.

(But as I’m hopping, just want to warn you: we may have bona fide Saudi terrorists training with automatic weapons up ahead...)


(CAPTION: On this date, in 1975, M*A*S*H star Wayne Rogers and his family were in a car accident here. Rogers was involved in a collision involving with two big rigs — a diesel fuel truck and double rig carrying carrots — in Valencia. Besides Rogers (who played McIntyre on the classic, which was filmed out here) was his wife, Mitzi and their two children, Laura and William. Also with them was Jacqueline Falk, 9-year-old daughter of actor Peter Falk. The group was treated for various cuts, contusions and bruises, then released. The group went back to Beverly Hills by taxi.)



–––––––    Ever see those bumper stickers around town that say “I Love Jalisco?” Ignacio del Valle, son of Antonio and owner of the Rancho San Francisco (which would later be most of the SCV) was born on July 1, 1808 in Jalisco, Mexico.

–––––––    John Lang was a rancher, businessman and overall mucky-muck in Canyon Country a century before it was called Canyon Country. Lang even had a train depot named after him, even though he had sold land to the Southern Pacific that he didn’t even own. But what Lang is most famous for is shooting an horrendously large grizzly bear on July 7, 1873. The beast had killed and eaten both men and cattle. It was one of two giant bruins that stalked the SCV. (The other was called the Piebald Grizzly of the Piru after his curious multi-colored face; his second nickname was Old Clubfoot after his mangled paw). The Soledad beast that Lang aerated tipped the scales at 2,350 pounds, stood over 10-feet tall and had a paw print 19 inches in diameter.

–––––––    America was celebrating its centennial on July 4, 1876. In Philadelphia, a sample of opaque, white oil was wowing the tourists at the Philadelphia fair. This oil was so pure, it burned 100 times longer and much brighter than regular oil. This mystery mineral came from our own back yard in Placerita Canyon. In fact, there still is a “secret” well where the white oil bubbles to near the surface.

JULY 2, 1925

–––––––    Flash floods were a problem through here up until the 1970s, before the Army Corps of Engineers came through to put in flood control. During the Depression, federal workers helped alleviate the problem a little with dams and run-off systems in the higher elevations. But on this date, there was none of that in place. A rare and big July cloudburst dumped a couple of quick inches of rain in Acton down to Mint Canyon. A wall of water a yard high came roaring down and by the time it got to where the Home Depot is today, the Santa Clara was a quarter mile wide.

–––––––    The big Santa Barbara Earthquake was felt here, rattling nerves and china cabinets. Hundreds of buildings were destroyed in that coastal town an hour-and-a-half from here.

–––––––    Paul Kodt was arrested by Constable Biddison on this date for leaving a campfire unattended in the National Forest and polluting a stream. Adding to his embarrassment, Kodt, by the way, was the local Boy Scout master.

–––––––    Now you saddlepals put away the checkbooks. You can’t take land back with you into the 21st century. How do you like this price? A local rancher was selling all 330 acres, close to town, with a house, a couple of barns, hundreds of oaks, water and a few oil wells. Asking price? Just $15,000 for the whole shooting match. That much land today would probably go for about a quarter of a billion — and that’s with a “B.”

JULY 2, 1935

–––––––    The estate of George Freeman was finally settled. He had a complicated trust that was finally settled after a serious time in court. The beneficiary of his estate ended up being a surprise: the Presbyterian Church in Newhall got all his fortune.

–––––––    Locals, along with the rest of the state, were up in arms over a series of new state taxes and increases. A dreaded 2.5 percent sales tax was implemented by California. Due to near riots, the state decided to hold off on taxing foods. Still, a local farmer pointed out with all the various taxes, including gasoline, the average worker was paying $100 a year in taxes. That’s a big piece of the pie when you consider a lot of common folk weren’t pulling in five bucks a week.

JULY 2, 1945

–––––––    On this date, voters in the Saugus Elementary School District voted 63-6 to pass a $75,000 school bond. Hmmm. A total of 69 votes? That sounds like a modern day election in Santa Clarita. The money was used to improve Saugus Elementary, which, today, is the shopping center just next door south of IHOP.

–––––––    The little Soledad Township (that’s what we used to be called in the 1930s and ’40s, among other things) tried to get their own fire district. Local chief Pierre Davies had some sobering numbers for locals, who had hoped to lower their fire insurance rates with a hometown fire department. A new building, fire truck and salary would put the start-up costs in the low six figures.

–––––––    Now I don’t know if this was THE Mrs. Ed Brown, or which THE Mrs. Ed Brown, for that matter. But on this date, a Mrs. Ed Brown, living up Railroad Canyon in a small cabin, was arrested for firing her shotgun into the ground near where some children were “playing.” We had two Ed Browns of note. One was the first editor/publisher of The Signal (he died in 1920). The other was the widow of the Sheriff, who was shot to death in 1924. Then, it could be a whole new different Mrs. Ed Brown. Couldn’t tell you yet. If any of you saddlepals have any insight, just sort of trot to the head of the posse and share your thoughts...

JULY 2, 1955

–––––––    The Lloyd Baker family of Canyon Country had some odd visitors to their ranch a half-century back. Two men had walked miles, looking for help. Seems the Los Angeles pair had taken their families for a Sand Canyon picnic. Instead of going home the regular way, they took an obscure fire trail, got lost and their car broke down when a rock busted the oil pan. A rescue posse was quickly formed and went to retrieve the women and children, including a 17-month-old infant. When the rescue crew arrived, they found everyone safe and asleep, bundled up in the car.

–––––––    Before local trash pick-up and even garbage disposals in most homes, folks out here burned a good portion of their trash. A rare few of our older homes out here still have these old-fashioned incinerators. Back on this date, you could only burn trash between the hours of 6-10 a.m.

–––––––    “East of Eden” was playing at The American Theater. The young star, James Dean, would later have his last meal at Tip’s up here and die in a car crash in Central California.

–––––––    Apathy was blamed for "postponing" the 1955 4th of July celebration. At an April meeting to plan the 4th of July, there were only two people present. Actually, Newhall had missed the parade and festival for two years in the 1930s, picking it up again in 1939. And then, there was no parade during World War II. Problem in 55 at the time was that the same people kept doing all the work and they just got tired. But, came the 4th of July and a group of old-timers, led by the Truebloods (who ran The Mighty Signal) held an impromptu and certainly illegal by today's standards parade. They marched down San Fernando road, carrying the American flag (and one Confederate one). There were 12 of them. Soon, as they marched down the street, people ran out of shops and stores and houses and joined them. Trucks and cars followed along as impromptu floats. Neat color of a small town: The Sheriff was driving the opposite direction of the illegal parade (no permits). He took off his hat and blocked his vision so he wouldn’t see it.

JULY 2, 1965

–––––––    Maybe some old-timers will disagree, but this  was one of the darkest days in Signal history. Forty years back, a friend of Scott Newhall, Art Finley, started appearing on the opinion page of this paper. For over a decade, his rather unfunny captions under old engravings brought few smiles. Ouch. Truly painful.

–––––––    On this date, Hart High grad Dickie Suggs was the 41st player chosen in the Major League Baseball draft and the first choice of the Kansas City Athletics.

–––––––    On this date, Newhall Land announced they leased land on Soledad to build one of the state’s largest drive-in movie theaters — The Mustang. Originally, it was supposed to accommodate 1,200 cars.

–––––––    Here was a truly dark day in Wm. S. Hart District history. They fired one of the best teachers ever to draw breath. Marvin Alexander, despite protests by hundreds of students, teachers and parents, was fired by a rather cement-headed group of trustees. The English teacher died a few years after that, some say of a broken heart.

JULY 2, 1975

–––––––      It’s not so much that the U.S. Postal Service raised their box rental fees. It was the staggering amount. Prior to this day, it cost $3.40 a year to rent the smallest mail box. With the issuing of an edict, the price jumped overnight to $14 annually. (SIDEBAR: Back in 1975, the Castaic Post Office still had a hitching post in front. A hitching post, for you newcomers, is that wooden thing that looks like a goal post to which you tie your horse.)

JULY 2 1985

–––––––      It must have been a heck of a sight if you were headed south on Highway 14. Mike Miller, a pilot who had just taken off from Agua Dulce, suffered engine problems. He flew low, tipped his wing and some heady motorists gave him space to land in front. Then, they helped him push the little two-seater to an offramp. Miller was unhurt.

–––––––      A Granada Hills man was fined $1,300 and sentenced to 30 days in jail for kicking a dog to death. The motorcyclist said he was mad at the creature for running across in front of his bike on Soledad Canyon Road. He his motorcycle hit the dog and he then finished him off. Judge H. Keith Byram told Terry Lane Dinwiddie he was lucky. Had the dog been a purebred owned by someone, the biker would have faced much stiffer felony charges instead of just a misdemeanor.

–––––––      One wonders whether it was just coincidence or whether the links of Al Qaeda go far back. On this date, a Saudi national, two Egyptians and two Jordanians were arrested in a distant Santa Clarita canyon. Elashyi Hazim Medhat, the 24-year-old citizen from Saudi Arabia, was arrested for possessing and firing stolen automatic weapons. A park employee at Hungry Valley reported “six-to-seven Iranian types” were firing bursts of automatic weapons in the remote area. About 25 officers from Ventura and L.A. counties, along with park rangers and members of the federal Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms descended on the group. The group was questioned by LAPD’s anti-terrorism unit.

You folks have yourselves a glorious 4th of July (this truly is a grand country we have, isn’t it?) I look forward to our trail ride through the back roads of SCV history next Thursday, dear saddlepals. Until then, read your SCV Beacon and — vayan con Dios, amigos!

(John Boston has earned 119 major awards for writing, including being named, several times, America’s best humor, and, best serious columnist. Look for his John Boston Report every week in your SCV Beacon. © 2015 by John Boston. All rights reserved.)

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